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at monticello. but it was in paris in the 1780s while jefferson, by then a widower, was u.s. minister to france. he supposedly began a nearly 40-year sexual liaison with sally who was there with him. by law she was free in france. before agreeing to return to virginia to slavery, she set conditions. >> according to her descendents, she said, i will go back with you if any children we have are allowed to be freed at 21. jefferson must have been totally flummaxed by this strong-willed i think quite courageous woman. >> reporter: in september 1802, a richmond virginia newspaper outed jefferson saying, by this wench, sally, our president has had several children. after that, the jefferson-hemmings story was whispered from one generation to the next for nearly 200 years by descendents of sally hemmings. many of whom passed for white. >> it's been an interesting journey for me because it started out when i was a kid, me standing up in class and saying thomas jefferson is my great great great great great great grandfather and being so happy and proud to brag about it when you're studying the president
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